This General Election is a once in a generation chance to shape the future of the country. There is a stark choice facing us all, and it’s important that the policies of all parties are looked at carefully to see which best reflect our values, needs, and hopes for the next generation.
Early Years and Childcare
Early Years, which covers pre-school age children, is a crucial time. When we get things right at an early age, everybody benefits. Early intervention on issues like child poverty and education mean fewer problems in later life, from mental and physical health improvements to improving children’s chances in life. Making sure childcare works for families relieves stress and helps financially, as well as benefitting children. Policies can give parents real options rather than leave them with little or no choice when it comes to childcare or put them in the impossible position of having to cut back on essentials to afford the childcare they need. This all contributes to a healthier and happier society, not just for those close to us but for everyone.
The party that forms the next government will be making crucial decisions about working families and young children. While a party’s manifesto promises set out a vision for the future, we can also look at the record of policies that have been brought in while they were in government.
Under the last Labour Government the Sure Start programme was created, putting children’s centres at the heart of every community. Labour committed to eradicating child poverty, and wrote this into law. Labour improved the availability and affordability of childcare for working parents and carers.
The Conservatives have been in power since 2010. In that time, one thousand Sure Start centres have closed, their ‘free childcare’ offer is desperately underfunded, hard for parents to access, and excludes many of the most disadvantaged children. Over 4 million children are living in poverty, and the majority are in families where their parents work. The Conservatives scrapped the laws aimed at ending child poverty that Labour had brought in. Schools have been forced to run food banks and self-funded meal clubs, so that children can be certain of getting breakfast.
The Tories have left children, their parents, and local communities to fend for themselves by cutting back on Sure Start centres and the valuable services they provide. Labour will undo this damage and invest in our families. This is what they have previously done, and have committed to doing again.
What’s in the Labour manifesto?
A Sure Start centre in every community.
Labour will support parents and children to get the best start in life by ensuring that every community has access to a Sure Start children’s centre. Sure Start centres provide health, welfare and education services not just to children but also their parents. They provide an opportunity for parents to come together, share experiences, and build a crucial support network in local communities.
30 hours free childcare a week for all 2-4 year olds.
While some families are able to make choices about who looks after their children, or are lucky enough to have grandparents and extended family helping out, for many the increasing costs of nursery and childminders leave them struggling financially. Labour is pledging to properly fund childcare so that 30 hours of free childcare a week is available for all families, giving parents options when it comes to making childcare arrangements and helping ease financial pressures.
Additional childcare hours to be available at affordable, subsidised rates.
It is vital that working parents have access to good quality childcare that can be accessed as they need it. Working parents are likely to need more than 30 hours a week of childcare so additional hours on top of the 30 will be available at affordable subsidised rates. Labour has also committed to working to make sure that childcare provision is available at times working parents need it, so that people who don’t work Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 can benefit too.
Free school meals for all primary-age children.
There are several benefits to this for children and families. Not only does providing a free school meal save parents money, but it ensures that children have access to healthy and well balanced meals regardless of their background. This is crucial as several studies show that eating a proper breakfast is important in terms of helping all children achieve their potential and do well at school .
Ending the benefit cap and the two child limit.
The Conservatives have restricted child allowance in Universal Credit and tax credits to the first two children in a family. Around 600,000 children are in families that have lost money as a result. The Conservative Government’s own statistics show working families are also amongst the most affected by the benefit cap, losing around £53 a week. Labour is serious about eradicating child poverty, and will act to do so by ending this restriction and abolishing the benefit cap.
A price cap on school uniforms.
It’s estimated that school uniforms cost parents around £230 per child. There are approximately a million parents in debt due to the cost of school uniforms. But saving money isn’t the only benefit of this pledge. Children from families who aren’t able to afford new clothes may be in poorly fitting or poor quality clothing, which can result in children being sent home or having a worse experience at school. Ending this will help close the attainment gap that children from less well-off backgrounds often face.
Don’t let someone else decide the future of your family, friends, and loved ones. Use your vote on
12 December, and Vote Labour.
Promoted by Paddy Lillis, General Secretary on behalf of Usdaw, 188 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M14 6LJ